Perils And Promise

For kids growing up in rural North Carolina the options after high school are limited.  In years past, if they want to stay local, the options for work were the family farm, the factory or the military.  Over the last three decades work in agriculture and manufacturing has dried up or moved.  As a result, rural youth have to be prepared to compete in the wider job market in more tech oriented urban areas.   This new reality is forcing public schools, community colleges and universities that serve rural areas to change.

WUNC Reporter Leoneda Inge spent several months exploring these issues with students, teachers, and administrators, at Vance County Schools for the series: Perils and Promise.

WUNC Takes Home Five Murrow Awards

Apr 25, 2017

The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) has awarded WUNC five Edward R. Murrow Awards, including the regional award in overall excellence.

Perils And Promise, Rural Education, Vance Public Schools
Leoneda Inge

Rural areas of North Carolina are not seeing the benefits of the economic recovery that are apparent in places like the Triangle, Triad or Charlotte.

The same is true for rural school districts. Their dropout rates are significantly higher than their urban counterparts, and their surrounding communities have higher rates of unemployment. 

WUNC recently examined one rural district, Vance County Schools, to understand how it is preparing students for higher education and the changing workforce. 

Perils And Promise, Vance County Schools, Carolina College Advising Corps
Carolina College Advising Corps

Trying to find the best path to success can be tough for students who don’t have enough support at home or at school.  This has been found to be true in many rural school districts, across the state, including Vance County.

To help address the problem, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill established the first college advising corps in the state, to reach those hard-to-reach students.  We take a closer look at the advising corps in our series, Perils & Promise: Educating North Carolina’s Rural Students.

Perils and Promise, Vance County Schools, Dropout Rates
Leoneda Inge

The path from cradle to college and career has been especially hard for young Black men.  Nationally, Black males have a lower high school graduation rate than White males and Hispanic males.

Perils and Promise, Rural Education, Advanced Placement
Leoneda Inge

Some teachers and schools administrators say one of the biggest obstacles to success for public school students in rural communities is poverty.  And research shows if you are poor, you have a good chance of being overlooked for gifted, honors or advanced classes.

In our series, Perils & Promise: Educating North Carolina’s Rural Students, we spoke with students in an Advanced Placement class in Vance County about their path to success.

Anthony Jackson, Vance County Superintendent, Vance County Schools
Vance County Schools

Many of North Carolina’s rural school districts sit in the middle of communities with struggling economies resulting in high unemployment rates, poverty rates and high school dropout rates.

A picture of a student doing school work.
Marco Arment / flickr.com/photos/marcoarment/1969185955

North Carolina is home to more Early College High Schools than any other state. New numbers show some of the most successful programs are in rural school districts.  Early College High Schools make it possible for students to earn an Associate’s Degree while still in high school. 

Operator work on infusion pharmaceutical industry
xmagics / Dollarphotoclub.com

Vance County no longer has the strong economic based it used to have in textile manufacturing.  Today, it’s becoming more and more clear one of the best workforce opportunities for workers here is in advanced manufacturing.  But like many in rural communities, Vance County residents will likely have to leave home for these jobs.

Perils And Promise, Rural Education, Vance Public Schools
Leoneda Inge

Like many rural counties, Vance County is not bustling with manufacturing jobs anymore.

In fact, the largest employer in Vance County is the school district.  Its main offices sit in the former textile headquarters of Henderson and Harriett Mills, a testament to the changing economy.  

In our series Perils & Promise: Educating North Carolina’s Rural Students, we follow a group of 10th graders to their first career fair.

Perils And Promise, Vance County Schools, Fire Academy
Leoneda Inge

Rural communities across North Carolina have been working hard to re-build their economies and prepare a future workforce.

In Vance County, the public school district has two career academies in place to provide professional development for students and help them focus early on a career.  Plus, academies have been proven to help with student attendance and dropout rates.

Vance County Schools, Rural Schools
Leoneda Inge

Western Vance High School near Henderson is not your traditional high school.  It’s a “second chance” school for students who could not find success at their home school.  That means they likely were not going to graduate.  And in these times, that also means it would be extremely hard to find a job.

In our series, Perils and Promise:  Educating North Carolina’s Rural Students, we talk with students at Western Vance as they move closer to getting a diploma.

Rural Schools, Vance County Schools, Western Vance
Leoneda Inge

Rural counties across the state are not experiencing the economic recovery underway in the Triangle, Triad or in the Charlotte Mecklenburg region.  The unemployment rate is higher, the poverty rate is higher and the high school drop-out rate is higher.